Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

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4.25 stars

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless is one of the most imaginative, well-written, and likable books I have read in awhile. And twisty, very twisty. I’ve been in a bit of a ‘disliking streak’ throughout March, as I’ve rated nearly every book 2 stars or 3 stars. I feel as though none of the books I’m reading lately are truly wowing me, but this one definitely did up until THAT SHITSTORM OF AN ENDING. More on that later, y’all. I’m still kind of rage-y.

Heartless is essentially a re-telling of Alice In Wonderland, which follows Catherine Pinkerton, the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, who lives in the kingdom of Hearts. Cath is constantly courted by the King of Hearts, and prodded by her parents to fulfill their dreams by marrying him, but Cath is far more interested in finding her own destiny and finally opening up the bakery she has always wanted, along with her friend and servant, Mary. After meeting Jest, the new court joker, at the royal ball, she feels a strong attraction toward him and they both become closer and closer in secret. But, Cath’s destiny is already much more planned out than she had ever imagined as she gets wrapped up in wave of intrigue, magic, and mystery.

The perfectly atmospheric writing: Meyer’s storytelling is as effortless, fun, and beautiful as ever. It’s incredible how every single moment of this novel is perfectly and intricately described, from the event, emotion, and expression. This aspect doesn’t even make the book boring or overwrought with details because of the way Meyer combines more serious writing with true entertainment. She gets the balance between darkness and light, imaginative and realistic, so right. I honestly came into this book thinking it was mainly a forbidden romance that equal parts speaks of 19th century societal issues, and while it is and does just that, there are tons of darker, more mysterious elements to up the plot and action. None of these aspects out-do each other, managing to not only create a perfect story, but a perfect retelling. There are many original characters of Alice In Wonderland incorporated into the story, including Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and even a reference to Alice herself falling down the hole. While the story doesn’t surround Alice, the same whimsical and imaginative vibe is present in Heartless. 

The most likable yet flawed cast ever: Meyer’s characters never disappoint, so I’m not surprised that the characters are my favorite part of the novel. Every single person in this book, even the minor characters, are so well-described and defined. From the snobby Margaret Mearle to the childish King of Hearts, none of the characters feel wasted or lacking in identity. Everyone has a realistic presence and contain so much life. The main characters are so likable and honest despite their flaws. I loved Cath’s ambition and passion, as well as her subtle haughty, petty attitude. Her struggles toward following her dreams and defying society’s roles were so realistic and relatable, especially concerning the time period she lives in. She tends to be a bit too spotlighted throughout the story, but remains likable due to the masterful character writing. Jest is one of the most charming male leads ever, you can’t help but fall for him, and Hatta’s complexity and overall nature is also well-done.

That adorable romance: Heart eyes, y’all, heart eyes for this couple. They just fit together so perfectly, and you can sense it right off the page when they first meet. Their actual romantic relationship develops later in the book, but their subtle flirtations, witty banter, and overall charm is so abundant that I partially wanted them to stay in that “I think I’m falling in love with you” stage. There were moments, of course, that dealt with their angst and their discussion concerning the fact that they couldn’t be together, that were frustrating in the best way possible. What is also frustrating, in not a good way though, is the end result of their relationship, which I cannot expand on because spoilers. But nonetheless, FAVES.

*sighs* when everything turned to shit:

Marissa Meyer,

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Those last few chapters were such a 180 from the original atmosphere, and while Cath’s character development is to be acknowledged (in a good way or bad way, I honestly don’t know how to feel) during those taxing last pages, but there was absolutely no resolve to it. I can’t spoil things for you guys, but I’ll just say that I was nice in docking only 0.75 of a star. That ending destroyed everything for me, but I was reminded of how much I enjoyed the rest of the book so I held back. I’m still hella angry though.

Overall, Heartless was a thoroughly enjoyable story, and I can definitely see myself re-reading this in the future. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining yet mysterious retelling, Marissa Meyer style.

-Haven

Books, New Releases, Original Post, YA Fiction

New Releases in YA for April 2017

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Hey dudes. How was your March? I had actually fit in more books than I thought I would, and even reread 2 that I had previously disliked in preparation for the ‘better’ sequels. March was pretty stressful for me, I won’t lie, I had a bunch of things going on at the same time, but I’m glad I still managed to finish 5 new books by the end of the month. April seems to be a great month for contemporary/romance releases. Let’s get into it!

1. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett – Coming April 4th, 2017

30312700In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

I love a witty and cute summer story and Alex, Approximately seems like a great one. The reviews that have been rolling in seem to really love it, and while the synopsis is a tad spoiler-y, I’m highly anticipating it.

2. Gem and Dixie, by Sara Zarr – Coming April 4th, 2017

18484793Gem & Dixie is the new novel from renowned young adult author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr—a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table; and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie, on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has written her most personal and affecting book yet—an unforgettable story of breaking apart and of coming together again.

Zarr’s past novel How To Save A Life pretty much saved my life, so I’m down for anything and everything she writes. Gem and Dixie definitely sounds like a mysterious and emotional story, and I’m really curious to Zarr’s take on this complicated relationship between sisters.

3. Always And Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – Coming April 4th, 2017

30658022Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Jenny Han’s novels have always been guilty pleasures of mine, and the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series is no exception. While I had my issues with the past two books (which mostly have to do with Lara Jean herslef, can you blame me?), I still have love for these sweet and sugary books and am anticipating the conclusion.

4. The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli – Coming April 11th, 2017

30653853Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda definitely made me a fan of her work, and this new contemporary sounds right up my alley. I love books with humor, emotion, and intelligence and I’m pretty sure Albertalli has tons of that packed in this one.

5. Given To The Sea by Mindy McGinnis – Coming April 11th, 2017

25314447Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.

Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.

Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.

The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.

I hate to add in a fantasy to screw up this happy contemporary party we are having here, but that cover? That synopsis? ASDFGHJK is my response. I’ve read some pretty disappointing fantasy ARCs lately, and with that kind of summary, Given To The Sea could either be a winner or a sore loser. Let’s hope it’s not the latter!

That concludes it, peeps. Let me know what you think and thank you for reading!

-Haven

Books, Original Post, YA Fiction

Some of my favorite YA contemporary/romance standalones

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today I wanted to share with y’all some of my favorite contemporary/romance novels that seem to be quite underrated or not as talked about in the book community. I’ve been reading a lot more contemporary novels starting from 2016, because my school workload and activities didn’t allow me the energy needed for a complex fantasy or dystopian novel, and I enjoyed the brain candy that was thrown to me. It gave me a rest from all the craziness and provided me with something to enjoy and dive into without completely taking my attention off work. I’ve definitely grown more attached to contemporary novels and gained more appreciation for them, as I usually read fantasy and science-fiction exclusively during my late middle school to early high school years. So, I just felt the need to express that through this post and I hope that it inspires you to pick up more contemporaries!

1. Tonight The Streets Are Ours, by Leila Sales

23310761Recklessly loyal.

That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.

Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.

Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

While Tonight The Streets Are Ours isn’t Sales’ most well-received novel (that honor would go to This Song Will Save Your Life which I personally thought was over-hyped), it definitely deserves to be due to its mature themes and realistic narration. I loved the setting and aesthetic of the novel firstly, and Arden’s narration is funny and relatable, reflecting her personality easily. This is a very character-based book, but other themes such as family, friendship, and believing and trusting oneself come into play seamlessly.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to jump into the nightlife of New York and go on a wild ride of falling for someone, heartbreak, and discovering who you are.

2. The Distance Between Us, by Kasie West

15283043Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

Get ready to grin until your cheeks hurt, because man, is this book a cheese-fest. The Distance Between Us is a perfect combination of extremely adorable and actual life lessons. Caymen is hilarious, relatable, and undeniably witty throughout the book, and her worries of the future she holds is conveyed realistically. In fact, the whole book is so true and subtle in its delivery of meaning, while many of the events that take place are unusual in our daily lives, Caymen and Xander’s personalities and feelings are relatable especially to young adults. The romance is just the right amount of sweet, and I swear, this book will make you so happy.

3. Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S King

6665671Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
 
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?
 
Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz actually deviates from the short and straightforward form of its summary and delves into a ton of deeper subjects that are actually very prevalent social issues in our society today. I feel like I name-drop this book often, and it’s for good reason. The prose of this book is so raw and truthful, and the messages it holds about suffering, guilt, and loss are expressed effortlessly. The characters only enhance this aspect to create a tragic yet beautiful story.

4. How To Save A Life, by Sara Zarr

10757806Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

This book centers on one of the most melodramatic and overdone topics in entertainment today — and absolutely nails it. How To Save A Life brims with emotional honesty, relatability, and poise as the prose is delivered in quiet yet heartbreaking way. I name-drop this one a lot too, and that is because there aren’t many books that can parallel the sincerity of this one.

5. The List, by Siobhan Vivian

10866233An intense look at the rules of high school attraction – and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

The premise of this book tends to scare away readers, probably because it sounds as a dramatic, chick-lit novel riddled with cliches. Spoiler alert: It’s deeper than that. Vivian turns the typical high school cliched characters into actual human beings and breathes life into them. It’s effortlessly written with running social themes concerning teenage interactions, and doesn’t sound too preachy or dramatic while doing it either.

Thank you all for reading! Hopefully this post inspires you to explore more contemporary/romance stories, because they definitely need the attention.

-Haven